Sermon preached at the Holland Park churches, Sunday 9 July 2017
‘I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’ (Romans 7:15)
I wonder how many of you have tried to give something up. For Lent, perhaps, or to lose weight? Or maybe you‘ve tried to give up smoking? So the words of St Paul will be familiar to you. That feeling when you accidentally cram yet another biscuit into your mouth while absent-mindedly chatting to a friend, then you realise you weren’t supposed to be eating it?
This sense of dislocation, of being divided against yourself, is what St Paul means. You may also have felt like this when you’ve lost control of your body – when it develops a mind of its own when you’re pregnant, or when your legs or your memory refuse to play ball as you get older.
Thanks to neuroscience, we have fancier words than sin and the law to describe it these days. Try this, St Paul: in the orbitofrontal cortex, a decision-making area of the brain, the brain’s circuits for habitual and goal-directed action compete for control. Usually, habit wins: neurochemicals called endocannabinoids act as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit to allow for habit to take over. Makes sense? This jargon is describing the rather mechanical process your brain indulges in to try to conserve energy. To do so, it uses tried-and-tested short-cuts, the neural pathways called heuristics, to keep you operating as efficiently as possible.
That’s why habits are so terribly hard to break. And today I want to talk to you about your habits, and specifically about habits to do with money. I want to offer you some ideas about how you might both audit and improve your money habits. Why? Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Read More